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Canadian in China guilty of selling Tesla secrets

NEW YORK (AFP) – A Canadian resident of China faces 10 years in prison after pleading guilty in US court to stealing industrial secrets from a leading American electric car maker, justice authorities said Thursday.

Canadian and US media identified the company as Tesla.

Klaus Pflugbeil, 58, who also holds German citizenship, pleaded guilty to “conspiring to send trade secrets that belonged to a leading US-based electric vehicle company,” US Attorney Breon Peace said in a statement.

Pflugbeil now faces up to 10 years in prison for conspiring with co-defendant Yilong Shao, who remains at large, to sell the secrets to FBI agents posing as Long Island businesspeople, the statement said.

“Today’s guilty plea demonstrates how this Office will swiftly bring to justice those who misappropriate intellectual property belonging to American companies, to safeguard our economy and national security,” Peace said.

According to the statement, Pflugbeil and Shao are former employees of a Canadian manufacturer of automated pumps and battery assembly lines.

Canadian media reports have identified the company as Ontario-based Hibar Systems, which was bought by Tesla in 2019.

The two men are accused of stealing industrial and commercial secrets from the manufacturer, including “original documents” related to the pump technology and “assembly drawings.”

According to the court, Pflugbeil left the Canadian manufacturer in 2020 to join a company founded in China by Shao, which manufactures the same technology.

A Tesla charging station is seen, September 28, 2023, in Woodstock, Georgia. PHOTO: AP